Are natural disasters in early childhood associated with mental health and substance use disorders as an adult?

Johanna Catherine Maclean, Ioana Popovici, Michael French

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

19 Scopus citations

Abstract

Understanding factors that influence risk for mental health and substance use disorders is critical to improve population health and reduce social costs imposed by these disorders. We examine the impact of experiencing a natural disaster-a serious fire, tornado, flood, earthquake, or hurricane-by age five on adult mental health and substance use disorders. The analysis uses data from the 2004 to 2005 National Epidemiologic Survey of Alcohol and Related Conditions. The analysis sample includes 27,129 individuals ages 21-64 years. We also exploit information on parenting strategies to study how parents respond to natural disasters encountered by their children. We find that experiencing one or more of these natural disasters by age five increases the risk of mental health disorders in adulthood, particularly anxiety disorders, but not substance use disorders. Parents alter some, but not all, of their parenting strategies following a natural disaster experienced by their children. It is important to provide support, for example through counseling services and financial assistance, to families and children exposed to natural disasters to mitigate future mental health and substance use problems attributable to such exposure.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)78-91
Number of pages14
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Volume151
DOIs
StatePublished - Feb 1 2016

Keywords

  • Early childhood
  • Mental health
  • Natural disasters
  • Parenting strategies
  • Substance use
  • United States

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science

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